From the Curators: Holiday Music Everyone Can Agree On

Long before the inception of Pandora, I can vividly recall the very first thumbs-down that I gave to a song. It also happened to be my first time butting heads with my parents on musical taste. It was Christmas of 1980 and my father had just dropped the hi-fi needle on a scratchy 45-rpm copy of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “A Night To Remember.” Even though I was only nine-years-old, I knew before the first chorus that I didn’t like his voice.

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“What is this?” I asked. My father replied, “It’s my favorite Christmas song by Engelbert Humperdinck.” I remember suddenly laughing uncontrollably.

“What? What’s so funny?” My dad demanded. “That’s not his real name,” I insisted. Now my father’s face was starting to redden as he retorted, “The man has a terrific voice. He’s English…just like The Beatles!” Read More →

From the Curators: Música Navideña on Pandora

In response to listener feedback we’ve grown our Latin Christmas offering this year.  We are pleased to feature some of the most requested music of the season, guaranteed to bring joy and happiness to all of your December celebrations. There’s nothing quite like celebrating Christmas by indulging in the vast repertoire of recorded holiday music, evoking sweet nostalgia and memories of family and friends.

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Navidad Latina offers a mix of Latin genres and artists, from up-tempo dance tracks to more subdued interpretations of classic Latin American Christmas music. There’s a little something for everybody here – you’ll find artists such as Luis Miguel, José Feliciano, Gilberto Santa Rosa and Jerry Rivera.

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From the Curators: New Holiday Music For 2013

Nothing gets me in the spirit like the right song and by spirit I mean holiday spirit. I’m always refreshed to hear new eclectic interpretations of favorite holiday songs. This year, there’s sure to be something to satisfy the holiday music fan in your life: from Pop to R&B, Punk to Classical. If you’d like a sampling of 2013’s newest holiday releases, check out our Today’s Christmas station.

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Two of 2013’s most anticipated Christmas albums come from chart-topping women. Pop sensation Kelly Clarkson’s debut holiday collection Wrapped In Red contains five original songs, including the single “Underneath the Tree.” Also releasing her first holiday collection is R&B singer Mary J. Blige. Blige’s A Mary Christmas features guests like Michael Buble, Rod Stewart and Barbra Streisand  is sure to bring on the Christmas cheer.

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From the Curators: Pandora’s Guide to Holiday Listening

You may ask yourself, “Am I the only one that becomes totally obsessed with Christmas music?” Rest assured you are not alone – welcome to the holiday season at Pandora! Every year we see a tremendous spike in holiday music listening, and it has not gone unnoticed by the curators here at Pandora. We invite you to get into the spirit with some of familiar favorites and new holiday station additions.

To check out a full list of Pandora’s holiday-themed genre stations visit: http://www.pandora.com/music/holiday.

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Christmas is by far the most popular holiday station, featuring all of the classic holiday tunes. Listeners have also been enjoying holiday music across a wide variety of genres such as Classical Christmas, Country Christmas and R&B and Pop Holidays. This year you can also celebrate the holidays with Indie Holidays, Rockin’ Holidays or Family Christmas.

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From the Curators: Celebrate Thanksgiving and Hanukkah 2013 With Pandora

It won’t happen again for 70,000 years. Thanksgiving 2013 has a special twist; Hanukkah begins on Thanksgiving this year, some are referring to this occasion as “Thanksgivukkah.” Naturally, Pandora curators have taken advantage of this once-in-an-eternity opportunity to commemorate these two popular family holidays, both of which focus on gratitude. What better way to celebrate and say thank you than with music?

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We have two genre stations fitting for the occasion, both of which have been spiced up for 2013. Thanksgiving Day Radio can be your soundtrack during the day, whether you’re relaxing or cooking, and Hanukkah Radio can be the accompaniment to dinner.

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From the Music Genome Project: The Anatomy of A Scary Soundtrack

It’s a familiar scene: lights low, popcorn in hand, you hear something; your heart begins to race, your brow sweats, you grip into the armrest of the plush theater seat. The knife-wielding psychopath finally bursts into the scene, accompanied by a dissonant musical crescendo.

While most film composers probably do not have a clinical understanding of the human brain, the great ones have figured out how to manipulate our most primitive fight or flight responses. Paired with just the right visuals certain sounds and pitch combinations can involuntarily cause us to experience physical reactions that one would expect in moments of real life stress. In the spirit of Halloween, we thought we’d take a look at some of the musical devices that are used in scary movies to elicit the fear response.

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Mastering the art of suspense is the first key to creating a scary soundtrack. When used in the right context, music can create a psychological state of dread and set the listener up for the inevitable startle effect. Avoiding melody altogether, instead relying on long tones or using short, repetitive melodic fragments can lead the listener to feel anxious. John Williams‘ theme to Jaws, with its famous two note motif is a perfect example, as is the theme to the Halloween films, which features a looping, ten note pattern that keeps listeners in a state of anticipation. (A little horror movie trivia: John Carpenter, who directed the Halloween movies, also wrote the theme)

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From the Curators: Class of 1983

It was 1983; I was in seventh grade, a year equally filled with excitement and fear. It was the year that I left my left my Bay Area private school for public school, leaving a sheltered bubble behind for a school with scary looking longhaired kids in denim jackets, Mötley Crüe and Iron Maiden patches. It was the year that I would attend my first ever school dance.

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Have you ever had an old song transport you back in time to the moment when it soundtracked an important part of your life? Pandora’s Class Of 1983 station not only reminded me how much awesome music was born 30 years ago – everything from Madonna’s eponymous debut to Slayer’s first album Show No Mercy – but a lot of these songs pulled me right back to the year I became a teenager.

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From the Music Genome Project: Vamping Harmony

When you think about your favorite song what characteristics stick out to you? Perhaps you notice the vocal range of the singer, the tempo or maybe the type of instruments in the song. Do you consider the vamping harmony? …wait, what?

In the course of analyzing a single piece of music, our Music Analysts will consider upwards of 400 distinct musical characteristics, some straightforward, like tempo or the gender of a vocalist, and some more esoteric. For today’s blog post, I thought it would be fun to discuss one of the slightly arcane elements of the Music Genome that Pandora uses to help build your stations: Vamping Harmony.

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In the context of music, a vamp is a short sequence of chords that gets repeated for an extended period. It can be used as a verb, as in “the band vamped  while the singer made her way to the stage,” or as a noun, as in “the band played a short vamp while the singer made her way to the stage.”

Vamping harmony can be a good choice if your goal is to focus attention on other elements of a song, such as lyrics, or rhythmic groove. A good vamp can lend a hypnotic quality to music, especially when combined with some infectious rhythms. James Brown was a master at this. Check out his classic “Superbad, parts 1 & 2” for a great example. In this case, the band vamps on a single chord for nearly the whole song. Read More →

From the Curators: Your Fall Soundtrack for 2013

As a college student in the early-2000s I would kill time between classes by heading to the local record shop and scoping the overwhelming batch of new releases. I still remember that killer autumn of ‘03 when The Strokes, Elvis Costello, Belle & Sebastian and Outkast all hit. Many of these songs are still on heavy rotation for me – it’s hard to believe that was ten years ago!  The fall of 2013 has the potential to be another memorable year for music across many genres.  Everyone from Jay-Z to Jimmy Eat World, Hanson to Daft Punk released new material this year and that’s not it – there is a massive list of artists slated for end-of-the-year releases.

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New music is set to drop from some of the industry’s biggest names this year: Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, M.I.A., Drake, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Keith Urban, Sting, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Cher, Celine Dion, Chris Brown, Pusha T, Future, Kings of Leon, Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire and Arctic Monkeys. Joining this group of heavyweight releases are debut studio albums from some of 2013’s most talked about up-and-comers including Lorde, Haim and Icona Pop.

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From the Curators: Back to School With Pandora

Remember back in grade school when we all dreaded going back to school? There was all that back to school shopping, and then there was the very first day back in class when our shoes and backpacks were so new you could smell them a mile away.

schoolThankfully, we’re older now and we can do our own shopping. Or we can just put on the same stuff that we wore last year. But who wants to listen to nothing but last year’s hits? It’s way too soon to get nostalgic for 2012.

That said, we’ve put together some sweet Back to School stations that are ripe with fresh new jams, like our Back to School Hits 2013 station. But don’t worry – there are also some well-worn tunes that fit just as comfortably as last year’s jeans. Read More →